Shakespeare Program Adjusts to COVID-19 Guidelines

Luca Hirsch, Staff Writer

All extracurriculars at Mount Greylock have faced numerous problems due to Covid-19, but the Shakespeare Program has been faced with an especially difficult task. The program is attempting to maintain a sense of comradery within the program, while also trying to put on a performance within the restraints of the hybrid school model. In years past,  Directors from the Shakespeare company in Lenox come to participating schools around Berkshire county. Each school learns, rehearses, and performs a play for their school and then for other participating schools during the Fall Festival of Shakespeare at the Shakespeare company’s performance center. 

Despite the challenges, the Shakespeare Program at Mount Greylock has continued. Like all extracurriculars, their first task was finding a way to adhere to strict COVID protocols while also managing the challenge of having two different cohorts. To solve these problems, two Shakespeare programs have been providing Greylock students the opportunity to study and act out the works of William Shakespeare. The first option is open to all grades at Greylock and resembles a normal year’s schedule, while the second option is only available to seniors and resembles the Fall Festival’s format.

The schedule of the program that is open to all Mount Greylock students mirrors, or mirrored, the cohort schedule of the school. With three rehearsals a week, students are able to attend in person on the day their cohort was in person, with all participants doing a Zoom rehearsal on Wednesdays. Rehearsal participants are split into partners, where they can practice scenes or monologues together. Besides practicing scenes together, partners play games to connect their breathing, voices, and body language. 

Despite the differences to a normal year, students have been enjoying their experience with the Shakespeare program. Junior Felicia LaRoche said she “loves having a space where I am able to connect with others, share advice and interests, but most of all have a place to be creative and have fun. The zoom environment that these folks create  is an incredibly safe space where I feel I can be vulnerable.” 

As for this year’s production it will be a mixture of comedies consisting of: The Tempest, As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Twelfth Night. Each pair will rehearse, perform, and record a scene that will be ultimately combined with other groups’ scenes to make a play. Due to limited days of rehearsal, participants have not had the same amount of time to practice as they would in a normal year but LaRoche is still “very excited to see our final outcome.”

The second Shakespeare program running this year is the seniors-only Fall Festival. The seniors are split into three groups and each group is going to put on their own performance. The three plays for the seniors are Julius Caesar, King John, and Love Labour’s Lost. Unlike the program at Mount Greylock, the senior program has no in-person rehearsals partly because of COVID and partly because seniors from all over Berkshire County are participating. All of the production’s rehearsals and performances are either through Zoom or recorded. Like the Greylock Shakespeare program, the recordings will be compiled together into a performance. According to Mount Greylock Senior Victoria Melkonyan, the recording of performances are coming up in two weeks with dress rehearsals beginning at the time of writing this article. Melkonyan went on to say, “It’s been a bit strange having different directors, but they’re great and we’ve been having a great time exploring the texts we have been given. It sucks not being able to perform or rehearse in person, but it’s necessary. I’ll admit stuff like fight scenes are a bit weird to do over Zoom.” Despite the challenges, Melkonyan is just happy that the spirit is the same as a typical year.